In between passing bread, pouring drinks and making sharp interruptions over politics, I kept hearing these familiar, and frankly inaccurate, nuggets of dialogue surrounding the topic of modern feminism.
- “Well, I can have sex with three guys in one night because I’m a feminist.”
- “Oh yeah, I am totally a feminist, I just read Lena Dunham’s memoir.”
- “It’s so unfair that women get paid less than men.” *Five minutes later* “Can you believe he didn’t pay for me on the first date?”
These one-liners are coming from college-educated 20-somethings — and it’s clear that we are confusing the “third wave of feminism” with a cattle herding of sexual liberation, progression, and pop-culture.
My female friends and millennial peers use the word as a ‘get out of jail free card’ or as a subscribed label to prove they’re one of the ‘cool girls keeping up with the times.’ Yet their behaviors, dating expectations, and stubborn, appointed gender roles prove they are anything but a feminist.
I don’t blame them; just as feminists were once projected to be makeup-less man-haters burning their bras, the 21st Century Feminist is characterized as a twenty-something who watches GIRLS, worships any Top 40 artist like Miley Cyrus or Taylor Swift, has lots of casual sex, and is voting for Hillary Clinton (absolutely no exceptions.)
Not to say a feminist cannot hold these attributions; they absolutely can. However, we cannot forget what a feminist truly is; someone who strives for political and social justice for women and believes men and women should be treated equally. To my fellow peers and self-proclaimed feminists, this does not “prove” you’re one:
1. How much you love Lena Dunham, Taylor Swift or any other poster child for ‘white feminism’.
This comes with several layers. We’ll begin with the most controversial; Lena Dunham is not the epitome of feminism. I applaud Dunham for so much; she has shed a once-dim light on rape culture, liberal rights, nudity and produced spot-on awkward sex scenes that perfectly mirror our true sex lives. (Mine anyway.)
However, Dunham represents a very slim, very privileged demographic. More than feminism, she and her peers like Taylor Swift promote female friendship and gay rights more so than feminism.
And that is great! I truly believe to help move the tides of feminism, empowering one another is a strong component that has a stupendous ripple effect. And I do not want to minimize the occasionally positive impact that public figures like Dunham or Swift have on young women and pop-culture alike.
But there is the convoluted allure that comes with being a fan of one of these ladies; that being a fan of their work or their brand is synonymous with a feminist yourself.
Because you admire Shoshanna’s quirks or are certain that Adam is every boy you’ve ever dated doesn’t mean you’re championing the feminist fight. It simply means you respect creative talent.
It appears “feminist” is a label being branded onto anyone in the GIRLS-viewing demographic. The word has lost its syntax and has become a marketing focus group—-that we are involuntarily and mind-numbingly participating in.
A true feminist examines her convictions; her convictions that support the equality of men and women alike and her conscious efforts to diminish all gender binaries no matter how seemingly positive or beneficial they may be.
After all, Swift continues to pit women against each other in revenge fantasy music videos. So if you’re a true feminist, cool. If you’re a fan of Dunham or Swift, just as cool. But you’re not a feminist because you’re a fan of Dunham or Swift, period.
2. How sexually liberal you are
Perhaps it will appear I’m parsing, I don’t mean to; “having sex like a dude” is a phrase that only perpetuates double standards. Rather than being slut-shamed, women are rewarded for “thinking like a man”, but that’s the whole point — “thinking like a man” or “having sex like a dude” are phrases that should be banished. Have sex…like someone who wants to have sex.
I’m exhausted from taking countless behavioral excuses from friends. When you end every sex story with “…well, if a guy can do it, so can I,” stop. You can do it because you gave consent. Having a pissing contest (with guys who don’t even realize they’re in one) doesn’t prove a damn thing, but perpetrates everything.
Furthermore, if you want to hold a standard for whom you have sex or make love to, that doesn’t make you a “bad feminist.” Though not a prude and not a stranger to the occasional “casual” hook-up, I am more selective with sex partners. I get flack from friends from time to time, and my feminism is brought into question. Now if it were due because I want to feed into a Madonna/whore complex, sure that would make me a “bad feminist.” But I am selective because I know I am more emotionally vulnerable and want to spare myself unnecessary heartache. That makes me ‘emotionally responsible.’
If you’re having sex to prove you’re better at the game than any man, you’re not much better than the girl not having sex to prove she’s worthy of any man.
3. Because you’re voting for Hillary
First off, I rock a Hillary Clinton support decal on my Honda Civic. Love my girl. I support her stance on gun control and I agree with most of her fiscal efforts, specifically her goals and plans for future students to pay for college without taking out hazardous loans. It’s just a bonus she’s woman. Just like it was a bonus Obama’s black.
Solely supporting Clinton because she is a woman is like the voters supporting a Republican candidate without knowing his name, just that “he’s a Republican.” It’s presumptuous, ignorant, and dammit, it just gives women suffrage flack.
You don’t have to agree with Hillary; you’re not a “bad feminist” if you have differing opinions. In fact, it’s great to look at a female candidate, respectively disagree with her but still tip your hat off to her courage to run in a male-dominated world. It’s silly and air-headed to call yourself a Hillary supporter without knowing a single stance of her platform. Which per conversation, it’s clear thousands of young women are falling victim to this.
In all, girl power is incredible and I love that it’s infectious. But a negative side effect is the boasting behavior of calling oneself a “feminist” without proper information or proper definition before doing so. Do not fall victim to the marketing schemes and pressure to stay relevant/hip. Research with helpful literature and reflect on your own convictions, do not adopt a celebrity’s or peers. (For one, they themselves are talking out of their ass too sometimes.)
Like a show, and call yourself a viewer. Have sex, because you’re in the mood. Vote for a candidate you believe in. And if you want women to have the same rights and treatment as a man, you’re already a feminist.